DEC 27, 2017 2:15 PM PST

Hyperloop Sets World Speed Record at 240 MPH

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

The hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system conceived by Elon Musk (of Tesla and SpaceX), broke a record during a December 2017 speed test. The Virgin Group’s Hyperloop One hit 240 mph, beating out the 220 MPH that Musk’s Tesla-branded pod hit in August. Both of these rates still fall well below the desired maximum speed of more than 700 mph, which is due in large part to the fact that the systems are not yet built to scale.

Hyperloop One, credit: Virgin Group

In a 2013 white paper, Musk described his vision for the hyperloop, a pair of concrete tubes stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles that would carry passengers in high-speed pods. The trip that usually takes about six hours one-way would be shortened to about 35 minutes.

The pods would be propelled by magnetic accelerators and held aloft in a near-vacuum, frictionless state. The maintenance of an airlock system allows for the successful and safe transference of passengers and cargo between varying states of air pressure. Similar “vacuum train” designs were also proposed in in 1909 by rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard and in 1972 by the RAND Corp., the Hyperloop One website points out. It describes its hyperloop in this way: “A Virgin Hyperloop One pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.”

During the December test, the airlock, electric motor, vacuum, “advanced controls and power electronics, custom magnetic levitation and guidance,” and pod suspension were all successfully tested. Hitting 240 mph was a notable boost to Virgin’s previous record of 192 mph. To reach the desired 700 mph, the team estimates about 1.2 more miles of track will be required. The current 1,620-foot DevLoop test track should allow the Hyperloop One to reach approximately 250 mph, The Verge reports. The Musk track is longer at about 0.75 miles (about 3,960 feet). After setting the August record, Musk posted on Instagram, “May be able get past 500 km/h (about half speed of sound) next month with a few tweaks or maybe tiny pieces … ”

In early September, Amtrak Co-CEO Richard Anderson expressed his uncertainty about the potential for functional hyperloops, telling CNBC, “I don’t think it’s realistic right now. I’m glad there are people like that [who] dream about that,” and, “I‘m sort of focused on bridges and tunnels that are 100 years old that need some real infrastructure investment.”

Virgin Group also announced in December that Co-founder Richard Branson has been named chairman, following the exit of Shervin Pishevar due to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. It has raised $50 million in investments from Caspian Venture Capital and DP World, which was an essential accomplishment for the company as it faced financial shortfalls. It now has a “very robust financial platform for 2018” and is “working aggressively” to have three production systems in service by 2021.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 09, 2019
Cancer
NOV 09, 2019
Using machine learning to discover new cancer treatments
Flashback fifty years ago and many of the modern world’s inventions and discoveries would have been undreamed of – including using machines to ...
DEC 22, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 22, 2019
Learning More About Cell Dynamics with Holo-Tomographic Microscopy
A new microscopy technique called holo-tomographic microscopy can generate 3D images and does not require labeling....
DEC 21, 2019
Technology
DEC 21, 2019
New Device Helps With Swallowing Disorders
A wearable monitoring device can provide relief for individuals with swallowing disorders. The device was developed to be affordable when hitting the marke...
DEC 25, 2019
Technology
DEC 25, 2019
Integrating Deep Learning for Online Shopping
As the holiday season approaches an end, all of us are familiar with online shopping. To shop on websites, we typically string a few words together to sear...
FEB 07, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 07, 2020
New diagnostic technology uses levitating proteins
Intrinsic biophysical properties of proteins hold valuable clues about how they function and their role in disease. Take, for example, one of the most comm...
FEB 15, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 15, 2020
FDA nod for AI-powered technology to detect strokes
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided clearance for a novel technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect strokes. The platf...
Loading Comments...